America's tallest man has a big problem: He can't find shoes that fit.
Even worse: He says he's been told that getting a pair that properly fit could cost as much as $16,000.
At the time he received the honor, he was proud, telling reporters, "It feels good to finally have proof that I am the Tallest Man in America. Everyone is always asking me if I'm certain that I'm the tallest and I was never able to prove it. Now that I have this certificate to hang on my wall, I could finally show it!"
These days, he'd rather have a pair of decent shoes in his closet than a plaque to hang on his wall.
"Guinness never contacted me after I got the certificate," he told the Huffington Post. "That was two years ago. I have one pair of shoes and they're more like shapeless clogs. There's no grip, no support."
But while most people can find footwear that fits without a struggle, that task is a tall order for Vovkovinskiy, who is raising money to relieve his estimated size 26 feet by orchestrating a fundraising campaign called "Igor Needs Shoes."
Vovkovinskiy, who emigrated to the U.S. from the Ukraine as a 6-foot-tall 7-year-old, claims he hasn't owned a good pair of shoes in the the last 5 years, but has had 16 surgeries on his feet.
"[My feet] are deformed terribly now," he said. "I have spent a total of 3 years on bed rest because none of my shoes have been made specifically for my feet. They rub, they make wounds. I have surgery, foot gets more deformed. They rub more, I have more surgery and so on. And the circle goes on."
Some orthopedic shoe makers and doctors have said the only way to stop the circle is for Vovkovinskiy to have laser scans done of each foot, a process estimated to cost $16,000.
"That means no outlining of the foot on paper, no making molds from stepping into styrofoam filled boxes, no measurements with a measuring tape," Vovkovinskiy wrote on the fundraising website. "Each foot has to be scanned with a laser, so that every surface is seen. Where to give me four-point arch support, where the deformities and scars are, where everything is. Then they can mold a cast from the 3D computer model."
The steep price includes one pair of shoes, but once he has the scans, future pairs will cost around $200 each.
HOW BIG ARE IGOR VOVKOVINKSKIY'S FEET? (Story continues below)
Vovkovinskiy received two pair of size-26 shoes in May, 2006, by German shoemaker Georg Wessels, but wasn't happy with the results.
"The shoes came out too small and hurt my feet," he said. "[Wessels] made me send one shoe back so he could examine it, but hasn't sent it back -- and it's been three years."
Vovkovinskiy also reached out to TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz in hopes he might be able to help. Dr. Oz invited him on the show, but didn't speak to him other than their segments.
Letters to Barack Obama, who once singled Vovkovinskiy out as his "biggest fan" at a 2009 Minneapolis rally, have gone unanswered as well.
Vovkovinskiy is disappointed that he has been unable to follow in the footsteps of Robert Wadlow, who at 8 feet, 11 inches, was the tallest man in recorded history before his death in 1940 at the age of 22. Wadlow wore a size 37 shoe and got his kicks free of charge from a shoe company, something that Vovikovinskiy is surprised he hasn't been able to do.
"Throughout all these years of sending letters and e-mails to companies, I always, I mean always, asked the companies if they would be willing to make shoes for me if in return I would do some kind of advertising for them," Vovkovinskiy said. "I always found it surprising that nobody wanted to have as an advertisement the tallest man in America."
He said nobody ever responded.
But there is some news that may put a spring in Vovkovinskiy's very large step.
He has been in touch with a Reebok executive Justin Kittridge, the company's director of basketball footwear, and he believes he can help. However, it will be a tall order. One reason why it may cost upwards of $16,000 for one pair of shoes is because the equipment used to make laser scans isn't set up for someone as big as him.
"Igor told me the last time he was measured, he was believed to be a Size 26," Kittridge told the Huffington Post. "Most professional basketball players wear between Size 12 and 15. Also, he told me the width is 8E and 3E is already considered pretty wide."
The $16,000 that Vovkovinskiy says he needs isn't just for the shoes. He said plane tickets from Minnesota and Massachusetts won't be cheap either.
"Airlines now force tall people to buy two coach tickets or fly at least in business class," Vovkovinskiy lamented. "I cannot fit into two coach seats. There is no room for my legs, so I have to fly in business, and flights in business class are tremendously expensive."
So far, Vovkovinskiy has raised nearly $3,000 for his trip and is hoping he can get a sponsor to foot most of the bill.
But even if he does raise enough funds, it only is enough for one pair of shoes and there is another big concern.
"Don't get me started on socks," he groaned. "That's a whole different issue."
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